Re: Cohousing is based on home ownership
From: John Faust (wjfaustgmail.com)
Date: Thu, 5 Jun 2008 13:45:47 -0700 (PDT)
"These aren't the relevant distortions. There are any number of housing
solutions which a person of 'affordable' means could buy outright for cash
and tow to a lot and set up, without the participation of developers and
lenders. Doing so is banned; that's the relevant distortion."

I assume, from your other posts, that the housing solutions you are talking
about are banned by zoning laws. It isn't clear from those posts, however,
whether all zoning is bad or just the conventional
forms<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zoning#Euclidean>that have: forced
us to segregate land use (e.g., residential, commercial,
industrial, agricultural), helped destroy our sense of community, and played
a very large role in creating urban sprawl.

So let's say we remove the zoning obstacles that keep someone from
installing a small living enclosure (trailer, container, yurt) on a piece of
land. So what is this piece of land?

   - Is it public land set aside for this purpose (i.e., zoned)? Not a very
   practical option given that most urban areas are desperate for revenues to
   make up for previous rounds of subsidized sprawl in the name of "economic
   growth". Property tax revenues generated by low income housing is not the
   first thing that will spring to their mind. Ditto for the sales tax revenues
   derived from the the consumption associated with larger disposable incomes.
   Urban balance sheets will only get worse as our current economic collapse
   continues.

   - Is it leased land (e.g., a trailer park)? I guess this might work but
   has little to do with zoning since it is probably already available in an
   area zoned for such things. Trailer parks can even provide the services
   (e.g., water, sewer, power, emergency, security, ... ) that probably
   wouldn't come easily in any of the other cases.

   - Is it privately-owned land that's been purchased on the open market? If
   so, where is it. If it is close to public transportation services, current
   urban boundaries or roadways, it is likely to be bid up by the developers.
   They can make substantial profits selling single family homes to those
   looking for the American Dream, an investment or a tax deduction. If it is
   in a blighted area, then it may already have housing in place--a good thing.
   The risk there is condemnation for economic revitalization--a growing trend
   in uncaring urban areas. Even the costs of blighted urban land will probably
   start to rise as peak oil begins to make sprawl untenable. If not in these
   places, the costs of commuting are going to take a toll.

   - Is it privately-owned land zoned for low-cost housing to keep the
   market value reasonable? This is definitely a possibility but requires the
   zoning to keep it from the open market where developers with the wherewithal
   will capture it.

I hope I don't seem unsympathetic to the problem of affordable (low-cost)
housing. I'm not. I also appreciate the problems of poor zoning
practices<http://virtuocity.com/2006/11/14/blog-post-2-2/>.
It's just not clear how elimination of zoning, if that is what you mean,
will solve the problem. Certainly, our approach to urban design needs to be
reformed and one direction is described
here<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_urbanism#Defining_elements>.
To me, poor zoning is a symptom of much deeper problems. Even the market
distortions I mentioned in the previous post are symptoms of much deeper
problems.

John Faust

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